Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Chapter 13 – At Death’s Door

Wherein the band discovers another trove...

Plamen decides to take a day off after his eventful foray, to have a chance to charge some holy water prior to returning to the warren. He feeds his remaining berries to Dmitri and Druvvaldis, and the two are now fully recovered. They have had a very successful couple of days trapping in the woods, and have managed to catch four hares, which Lionia cooks up into a stew.
Over the evening meal, Chonkorchuk relates the content of the visions he saw at his recent retreat. He is now more certain that the grain is not the treasure Baba Yaga seeks, and is willing to return to the warren to look for another treasure room. There is still disagreement about what to do with the treasure if and when it is found, and Plamen still displays a great deal of skepticism about working with Lionia and Rodion, but nevertheless, all are in agreement about returning.
Should treasure hunting fail, another career awaits Raskel
Rodion spends the next evening studying and playing Plamenka’s flute. Set to Druvvaldis’ accompaniment on the drums, it produces a mournful yet enchanting sound. Given what he knows about the magic contained in it, the workings of Plamenka’s other items (the sickle and sash), and its likely purpose, Rodion divines that it is likely a mechanism for calming the walking dead – probably a charged item, which is discharged by playing a particular sequence of notes. He questions Plamen about whether his mother ever sang to him, and the healer recalls a simple, three-note tune, which Rodion reproduces, and masters.
The following day, drizzle changes to light snow, and over the season’s first winter tapestry, the entire band returns to the warren. With the new earthworks, the way inside is clearer now, and the group, led by Plamen, moves in the direction of his previous skeletal encounters. Led by Rodion’s dancing lights, they make it to the entrance of the long tunnel leading to Tsibulka’s tavern, the band encounters the four skeletons fought  by Plamen two days ago, though only one of them is still operational. He throws a spear at Dmitri, and puts up a good fight, but it ultimately smashed by the ranger’s spear, with an assist by Druvvaldis’ frosty blast. At the conclusion of the encounter, the group inspects the remaining skeletons, wondering whether Plamenka’s ghost has been reanimating them. Not these ones, it appears.
Plamen leads the group away from his family’s chambers, hoping to thereby save their lives. The way is now lit by Druvvaldis’ fire beetle, summoned up to replace the deer and raven. Thus illuminated, the band encounters four more animated skeletons in the maze. At this juncture, Rodion-Raskel slips past the boney patrol, and tries out the flute, succeeding in immobilizing three of the four. The remaining one is dealt with by spear and blasts, while the other three are finished off in due course, as they cannot effectively defend themselves from the party’s assault after being immobilized. So two questions appear answered: there are more animated skeletons, and Plamen’s song is effective when performed on his mother’s flute.
A confusing series of mazelike tunnels, with several dead ends, terminates in a final dead end. This area is unfamiliar to Plamen, and Rodion, who has been mapping, thinks there are no other tunnels nearby. Chonkorchuk checks for the presence of magic. A massive aura of necromancy radiates from behind this wall… 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Chapter 12 – Go To Where The Treasure Isn’t

Wherein one changeling's quest for the truth yields unexpected results.

The band hurries back to the granary to make sure that Rodion/Raskel and the supplies are safe. He is, and says he is not seen the apparition. Those who have just been attacked by her are quite drained and want a chance to recuperate. Rodion would prefer making the granary their base, and slowly taking over the entire warren, but Plamen objects that the warren is already home to the poleviks, and that his companions are the ones spreading darkness and destruction. Dmitri adds that it’s unlikely Plamenka could have killed all those people and turned them into skeletons, considering how easily the group bested her. Rodion suggests that they don’t know the full story, and Plamen is being blind to the fact that he is a good son raised in a family of monsters. He futher ventures also that the group needs to think through what it’s doing here – there is little reason to continue putting themselves into harm’s way just to become enslaved to Baba Yaga. Chonkorchuk is offended by this, and responds by saying they do this voluntarily to learn ancient secrets, and to win the hand of Katarina. In any event, there is little sense in staying here and look for a treasure trove other than the grain, because they have searched the whole warren already, and Plamen asserts that there is nowhere else it could be stored. His visions from his queen have been cloudy, likely for a reason, and he needs to separate himself from the group for a while to meditate on what to do next.
Is this the real treasure?
Chonkorchuk departs for his hermitage, while the rest of the group prepares to leave also. Rodion comes up with an idea to use Plamenka’s blankets and tapestries to make more sacks, since no one thought to bring any back. While he is busy sewing them up (and Dmitri - stuffing his quiver), Lionia shows up, bringing one additional sack with him. He had just encountered Chonkorchuk on the way out of the warren, and had a brief exchange with him, in which the ascetic told the Old Fox to inform his companions of any tales of flaming skeletons ahead of time, and to stop worrying so much about the material world. Lionia did not see the apparition on his way to the bedchamber and the granary, but he is concerned that the band is being pulled in different directions, and seems to lack a plan. If people cannot continue with the search after the previous day’s encounter and insist on leaving, they should have a place to recuperate and store the grain without risking dying of cold, or burying full sacks in the ground (much less taking them to the hermitage, which has already been attacked once). He again offers his own house. Rodion accepts gratefully, while the others, including Plamen simply accept it silently as the most viable move in the absence of alternatives.
Before leaving, Rodion would like to close up the granary. Thinking this should be done the same way it was opened, he traces an outline in the entryway with Plamenka’s sickle, while burning another section of the sash with a sigil on it (one now remains). The outlined doorway glows green for a moment, but nothing happens. A discussion between Rodion and Druvvaldis establishes that the characters making up the sigil are for opening portals, and may be successfully reproduced by someone who knows the formula for the opening spell, and acquires the necessary ingredients for the ink to scribe it. Druvvaldis successfully reproduces the sigil on his drum. The band then pushes the section of wall that swung outward back into place. The entryway glows for a moment, and then the doorway once again becomes invisible.
Exiting from the warren is easier now after the burrowing job done by the fefila, and the group proceeds to Lionia’s house in Medunitsa across the frozen river. The bitter cold spell has ended, but the ice is still solid, and everyone arrives at his house without difficulty. It is a small hut at the edge of the village, and it does seem to have hives in the back, suggesting that the occupant does indeed keep bees. The inside of the house is stuffed to the brim with jars, tools, and junk of various kinds, but Lionia declines Rodion’s offer of helping him clean the place, saying he knows exactly where everything is. He would appreciate some help with the chores – chopping wood, carrying water, and perhaps, catching some game in exchange for his hospitality, while he is off at church in the morning (it being Nedelia). He finds a plucked chicken and some other viands in his cellar, and sups on it with his guests.
Lionia's place: a house of mystery, or a just hoarder's hut?
The next morning, after breakfast, Dmitri takes Druvvaldis into the woods to teach him how to set traps, while Plamen has a conversation with Lionia and Rodion about what happens next. He reiterates that he does not believe the story about any skeletons, as he has not seen them, and thinks it is the band, and not his mother, which is the cause of great evil, having invaded his family’s home, and engaged in wanton slaughter. Further, the doesn’t think there is any treasure, as he has seen nothing other than the grain, which he thinks his family grew themselves. Rodion and Lionia contest his take on the proceedings, and point out to him that everyone has seen the skeletons (they were responsible for Dmitri’s loss of his arm). The disappearance of the villagers at Crows’ Meadow, and the fact that parts of the meadow remain unexplored need to be taken into account. They should proceed on the basis of what is known, not fantasies, of the type Chonkorchuk peddles. Plamen says that he wants to investigate the matter for himself, asserting that he wants to protect the rest of the sleeping poleviks, and that he will learn more by himself by specifically going to where the treasure isn’t and talking to the denizens than the party will by following the violent methods it has been using. Lionia says it is too dangerous to go there alone. Even though he disagrees with Plamen and Chonkorchuk about their approaches to the task at hand, he respects their abilities, and does not want to lose them as allies in a common enterprise. But in the end, he and Rodion realize they cannot stop Plamen from going back. Lionia demonstrably mouths a prayer, and Plamen sets out alone.
He approaches the warren in the same way as before, but proceeds south rather than east from his own chamber, and works his way toward the rooms of his stepfather and half-siblings. When he comes to a long hallway that he recognizes as leading back to a shed in Lazarevo, he encounters four skeleton warriors, who attack him, as he cannot flee quickly enough with his limp. The skeletons are clearly armed with old Kochmak weapons, and wear old pieces of Kochmak armor, he notes. Plamen draws upon the power of thunder to smash them to smithereens, but he also wants to awaken the warren’s denizens with the noise. He manages to survive the encounter unscathed, but is almost immediately confronted by the livid image of Plamenka, who floats up to him, and mouths a demand that he leave immediately. Plamen complies, and exits the warren via the long tunnel.
He sneaks out of the shed cellar at Tsibulka Tsibulkovich’s tavern. The yard and the village are quiet and almost entirely empty – everyone is at church.  After he surreptitiously leaves the yeard, he runs into Chonkorchuk, who had returned to the meadow from the hermitage. After he heard the thunderous noises of battle, the fefila directed him back to Lazarevo. The two of them now make their way back to Medunitsa.

Lionia returns to the house from church shortly after Plamen, claiming he feels cleansed after the service. Plamen then admits that Lionia and the others were right about the skeletons, and tells them about encountering the apparition again. He now doesn’t know what to think, and is ready to return to the warren to inspect the passages in the other part of the warren, that he was warned by his mother to stay away from, the following day. Lionia is happy to hear that, and pushes for a new expedition, saying that the enlarged entryway is increasing the chances that someone else will find what they are looking for first.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The PC and Family

Families are not usually important to members of the typical adventuring party, though this has changed somewhat since the introduction of the "Bond" feature. They were, however, key to the survival and identity formation of people in non-modern societies (and continue to be today, especially if we agree with the contention that we have never been modern).

If adventurers don't concentrate exclusively on slaughtering monsters, and wouldn't mind having some kin, but their players and Game Masters both have other things to think about, rolling on a table is always an option. It may spark the player's interest,  especially if an older brother means a chance to borrow some money, or even to recruit a new meat shield to bring into the dungeon.


As an option, to provide an incentive to figuring out whether a character has parents or not, allow the starting character to double his or her wealth if both parents are living, and multiply it by 1.5 if only one parent is living. Assuming the character is in good standing with the fam, that is.

d8 roll

  1. The character is an orphan who grew up with strangers (never knew parents)
  2. Both parents are deceased (but known by the PC)
  3. Character is a black sheep
  4. Only father is living
  5. Only mother is living
  6. Both parents are living
  7. Character grew up with other relatives (grandparents, aunts, etc.)
  8. Other (character had multiple families of origin, grew up in non-standard/polygamous family, etc.)

This is an admittedly idiosyncratic table suited to a fairy-tale environment (which is what I run). It can easily be changed to reflect a more realistic situation. 

It is possible that some results will conflict with those of the Parents table, so ignore or rationalize inconsistent results.

d12 roll

  1. PC is the youngest of three children of the same sex
  2. PC is the youngest of seven children of the same sex
  3. PC has a younger sibling of the opposite sex that he/she is responsible for
  4. PC has an older sibling of the opposite sex who is responsible for her/him
  5. PC is the only child of a widowed mother who obsessively dotes on him/her
  6. PC's mother died, father remarried. Stepmother has a child from a previous marriage, and she and the step-sibling hate the PC
  7. PC was a foundling adopted by an elderly couple (only child)
  8. PC has three siblings of the opposite sex, and is responsible for marrying them off
  9. PC has an identical twin (who may or may not be the PC's polar opposite)
  10. PC and a fraternal twin of the opposite sex are children of a widowed parent who has remarried
  11. PC has a "named" sibling (may be of a different people or race) who has sworn to aid him/her in an hour of need
  12. Player choice: anything other than any of the above
Family of Procreation:

If anything, this comes up even less frequently than the question of parents/siblings, but can be a great stimulant to play (if a character is adventuring to find a match, or, conversely, to get away from an unsuccessful marriage).

d8 roll

  1. PC is single and innocent
  2. PC is single and experienced (may be unmarriageable as a result)
  3. PC is promised to someone
  4. PC is married but (still) childless
  5. PC is married, with 1d4 children
  6. PC is widowed, with no children
  7. PC is widowed, with 1d4 children
  8. Player's choice (vow of celibacy, polygamy, cohabiting, same-sex relationship, etc.)